Thursday, May 25, 2006

Implants Can Save A Life...

And I ain't talkin' about boobies, so all you pervs can log-off now.

Anyway, I saw this article in the news today and it just so happens I recently attended a workshop on Vagus Nerve Stimulation therapy about a month ago.

It sounds promising. And, as with most anti-depressant effects, they don't know the actual mechanism that causes relief. Yup, it changes chemicals--and in a good way. Well, they know a little more than that, but the proof is always in the pudding--which means the majority of folks who haven't received relief through traditional therapy have re-entered life for the first time after VNS.

Originally used for epilepsy patients, the implant is like getting a small pacemaker implanted in the chest with a little flexible wire that travels under the skin to the vagus nerve in the neck. Little curly contacts are wrapped around the nerve and voila! the procedure is done. You cannot see any evidence of it unless you are looking for a tiny incision in the natural skin folds of the neck (or, I suppose, if you rip the person's shirt off and look for another small scar on the side chest wall). I remember the representative saying that surgeons who do this procedure really enjoy it because it's a no-brainer with, usually, spectacular results for the person.

After implantation, the person's device is programmed by a trained staff member who has the patient hold a wand-type contraption over the implant while the stimulation frequency is adjusted via a small handheld computer.

The patient can also turn the device on and off by holding a magnet over the area. The workshop I attended was partly run by a person who had reclaimed his life after getting the implant. He was really happy with it and noted that the only types of side-effects were voice changes while moments of stimulation were occurring, for which he suggested that if you are a singer to turn the device off until you're finished yodeling. Otherwise, precautions similar to a person with a pacemaker apply (e.g., don't go to a place called Magnet World without turning it off!).

I'm not trying to sell the thing, but it looks pretty promising and the implants are getting smaller and smaller.

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